Modernism Lives Beyond Palm Springs

Detail 2 MCM Blocks

The 40,000-odd visitors to Modernism Week 2014 were made well aware of the Mid-Century Modern homes in Palm Springs, but they may not be aware of the trove available in other parts of the Valley.  At the same time the modernist architects like William Cody, Albert Frey, Krisel and Donald Wexler, to name a few, designed homes in Palm Springs, they did too in Rancho Mirage, Palm Desert, Indian Wells, La Quinta and Indio.

It is very difficult to find exact numbers, but we do have some historical sales data.  Based on the Desert Area Multiple Listing Service, there have been about 7,200 residential sales since 1998 in Palm Springs of mid-century (approximately 1949-1969) homes.  Not all of these are Mid-Century Modern, but some good portion are.

According to the same criteria we should find MCM in good numbers In the five cities mentioned above, where there were about 11,000 Mid-Century sales, more than in Palm Springs.   The average sales price over the period 1998-2014 was about $388,000 in Palm Springs, $435,000 in Rancho Mirage and $424,000 in Indian Wells. Continue reading “Modernism Lives Beyond Palm Springs”

Great Mid-Century Modern Areas in the Palm Springs Valley Part II

Sandpiper Palm Desert
Sandpiper Palm Desert


Sandpiper has the distinction of being the oldest residential development in Palm Desert. Architect William Krisel designed Sandpiper in the 1960’s. The homes are Mid-Century Modern in design. His inspiration came from Frank Lloyd Wright. He offered brightly lit homes that were well designed along with lovely landscaping and quiet private views. The whole property has 18 “pods.” Each has its own lovely swimming pool and there are 6 buildings within the “pod” and each contains two one-level homes. Sandpiper is a convenient walk or stroll to groceries, coffee shops, restaurants and shopping on El Paseo Drive

Sandpiper home prices range from $250,000 to $500,000+.


Continue reading “Great Mid-Century Modern Areas in the Palm Springs Valley Part II”

What is Mid-Century Modern?

Wexler Roof
Roof and wall detail of a Wexler Steel House. Photo by Greg Felsen

The community of Palm Springs, California is home to one of the highest concentrations of Mid-Century Modern architecture in the world, making our community a famous destination for aficionados of all things modern. In fact, each February visitors flock from all over the world to celebrate this design style during our world-renowned Modernism Week, which offers events ranging from architecture tours to art exhibitions, swanky parties to film lectures, and much more. Let’s take a look back at the history of Mid-Century Modern architecture in Palm Springs and how we’ve earned this prestigious reputation.

Starting in the 1920’s, Hollywood’s elite found that Palm Springs was the ideal location to escape the hustle and bustle of the big city, yet was close enough to get back to the studios quickly if needed – just a two-hour drive. They and other affluent elite would turn Palm Springs into a private oasis of custom homes designed to integrate seamlessly with the beautiful desert landscape and outstanding Southern California climate. Later, during the 50’s and 60’s, architects and builders would experiment with these early designs, taking the new aesthetic into mass production by using a few basic floor plans and several roofline choices. The Alexander Construction Company, for example, would use these plans to build several entire neighborhoods. The development of more than 2,200 homes in this style would effectively double the size of Palm Springs at the time. Continue reading “What is Mid-Century Modern?”

Great Mid-Century Modern Areas in the Palm Springs Valley

Ocotillo Lodge in Palm Springs


Old Las Palmas has one of the largest population of homes in Palm Springs that are owned by celebrities. Many of the homes date back to the 1920’s, when it was developed by Alvah Hicks, a builder from New York, and his son Harold. It was a citrus grove before being developed into one of the most prestigious areas of Palm Springs. Back in the 50’s and 60’s Old Las Palmas had many well known celebrities as residents, Liberace, Alan Ladd, Rudy Vallee, Edgar Bergen, and George Hamilton to name a few.

Old Las Palmas is very convenient, and within walking distance to downtown Palm Springs. There are many special advantages to living in Old Las Palmas.

Today, Old Las Palmas is recognized as one of the premier locations in Palm Springs with manicured estates and magnificent views of the San Jacinto mountains.

The-Warner-Estate-Old-Las-Palmas Photo George Gutenberg
The-Warner-Estate-Old-Las-Palmas Photo George Gutenberg


Vista Las Palmas – the Beverly Hills of Palm Springs, used to be the place where many Los Angeles Celebrities and Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr. and Dean Martin known as the “Rat Pack” would vacation in the 50”s and it became known as the Beverly Hills of Palm Springs.

Nestled between the San Jacinto Mountains and downtown Palm Springs, it made it the perfect place to build “Alexander Homes” done by Architect William Krisel. Vista Las Palmas still features many of them in todays so popular mid-century modern era. Alexander architecture is nowadays well known with their roof styles such as butterfly, low-gabled and folded plate, post & beam construction, clerestory windows, center halls and large lots. “Swiss Misses” became also popular with their double A-frame designed by Charles Dubois and still can be found today in Vista Las Palmas.

Mid-century modern rules the Vista Las Palmas area and many of the older original homes have been restored, remodeled and modernized and increased tremendously in value over the last years.

Home prices in Old Las Palmas and Vista Las Palmas range from $750,000 to $10 Million+.

Alexander 619 N Rose Ave Vista Las Palmas - Photo MLS
Alexander 619 N Rose Ave Vista Las Palmas – Photo MLS


This is one of those neighborhoods within the city of Palm Springs that is as rich with history as any, but may not be as well-known.

In 1952 Deepwell was officially started as a subdivision. It is a neighborhood filled with rich history, but it is not as well known as some areas of Palm Springs. It has a colorful and long history as a very important part of Palm Springs.

In 1926, Henry Pearson a scientist, bought the area that is known today as the Deepwell Ranch property. He dug his first well and discovered water as deep as 630 feet. This is the deepest well in the Coachella Valley. This is why the property became known as Deepwell Ranch.

Today, a drive through the streets of this neighborhood is great fun, but better yet, rent some bikes and ride these quite streets and enjoy one the of oldest neighborhoods of Palm Springs.

The price of homes in Deepwell and Deepwell Ranch range from $400,000 to $1,200,000+.

Mid-Century modern in Deepwell Palm Springs - Photo George Gutenberg
Mid-Century modern in Deepwell Palm Springs – Photo George Gutenberg

Heidi O’Neal


Walter S. White, One of the Great Palm Springs Area Architects

Photo: George Gutenberg

Drawings for the Johnson-Hebert Residence by Walter S. White (1917-2002) date to early 1958.  By that time, White had perfected his ideas for mid-twentieth century modern desert residences.  Typically, he first conceived a roof for without shade, life in the desert was unbearable.  Underneath he, second, placed space-defining walls, usually not more than two per room and sometimes extending beyond the roof line in order to mark outdoor living spaces.  Third, the remaining sides of the rooms White enclosed with large expanses of glass.

Walter S. White (1917-2002), Paulette Johnson house, Palm Desert, CA, 1958, preliminary design showing the unrealized hypar roof. Image courtesy of Architecture and Design Collection, Art Design & Architecture Museum, UC Santa Barbara. © UC Regents.
Walter S. White (1917-2002), Paulette Johnson house, Palm Desert, CA, 1958, preliminary design showing the unrealized hypar roof.
Image courtesy of Architecture and Design Collection, Art Design & Architecture Museum, UC Santa Barbara. © UC Regents.

White liked to experiment with the roofs.  Curved shapes were a favorite of his; the Bates Residence (1954) in Palm Desert features a wave-like roof, a simple concave curve graces the Alexander Residence (1955) in Palm Springs.  By the later 1950s, White was fascinated by hyperbolic paraboloid (hypar) shapes.  Formed like a saddle, or a Pringle potato chip, these roofs were self-supporting and offered maximum freedom for the interior arrangements. Continue reading “Walter S. White, One of the Great Palm Springs Area Architects”

The 6 Coolest Modern Restaurants in Palm Springs

Dining in Palm Springs is nothing short of exceptional. Whether you’re looking to dine alfresco at the base of the San Jacinto Mountains under a star-studded desert night sky, prefer breakfast at one of our signature cafes, or look forward to happy hour at one of the numerous poolside lounges at hotel properties throughout the city – you’ll find endless ways to tantalize your taste buds.

Here is a list of some of our favorite restaurants: The 6 Coolest Modern Restaurants in Palm Springs. We think you’ll find these restaurants to represent some of the best eating and ambiance in the city. Let’s take a look. Continue reading “The 6 Coolest Modern Restaurants in Palm Springs”

Modernism Week 2014

Modernism Week 2016

Palm Springs in California has made its name over the years, to attract a lot of people from all over the world to the Palm Springs Modernism Week taking place from February 13th till 23rd, 2014.  This yearly event celebrates various cool parties, mid-century modern architecture and designs, special touring of homes and other adventures.

Modernism Week 2014 Retro Martini Party
Modernism Week 2014
Retro Martini Party


In addition to the Bus Tours showing architectural significant homes which runs on a daily basis four times during modernism week, the famous Estate of Annenberg at Sunnylands is open to the public for touring and the Convention Center in Palm Springs is holding the popular Modernism Show.  Another event which should not be missed is the Exposition of expanded Prefab Showcase and Modern Living which include:

Modern Mambo! Modernism Week After Dark Opening Night, February 13, 2014

Continue reading “Modernism Week 2014”

The 6 Coolest Mid-Century Modern Hotels in Palm Springs

Horizon Hotel exterior Palm Springs

The community of Palm Springs, California boasts one of the highest concentrations of Modernist Architecture in the world, making it a world-famous destination for aficionados of all things Mid-Century Modern. In fact, each February visitors from all over the country flock to Palm Springs to enjoy Modernism Week. In this blog, we’ll take a look at the 6 Coolest Mid-Century Modern hotels in Palm Springs and their characteristics. Perhaps you’ll stay in one of these exceptional masterpieces on your next visit or getaway to Palm Springs.

Before we delve into the hotels themselves, let’s take a look at the characteristics of the Mid-Century Modern style. After the first and second world wars, radically new architectural trends began to emerge in Europe, but the political environment in this region led architects to move to the United States. Their designs, celebrating a simplification of form, emphasized uncluttered lines and technological advancements in materials like steel, poured concrete and sheet glass. By the early 1920s, young architects were bringing these designs to Palm Springs. Often commissioned to create their designs for the wealthy, many of the best examples show a harmonious blend between form and function. Some of the characteristics include post and beam construction to minimize interior support walls, expansive exterior walls of glass with clerestory windows above, concrete floors indoors, decorative gravel ground coverings outdoors, warm colors such as muted orange and turquoise, and a minimalist approach to furniture. Continue reading “The 6 Coolest Mid-Century Modern Hotels in Palm Springs”

Mid-Century Modern Design in Eldorado Country Club

46620 Eldorado CC, Indian Wells, CA

46620 Eldorado CC, Indian Wells, CA

The original country club in Indian Wells

Eldorado Country Club is one of the older traditional country clubs with lots of history, owned by private members in the desert and has recently enjoyed the celebration of their 50th anniversary.  The location of the club, nestled in the cove of Indian Wells, is superb with it’s spectacular views to the Santa Rosa Mountains and is the ideal place to enjoy all the amenities the club is offering.  Members have been enjoying world-class services and great times among themselves.

Way back in the past, the Southern Pacific Railroad tracks passed through the Coachella Valley and the location where Indian Wells got established much later in the future.  Around 1870 the rail and state traffic increased and the County of Riverside built a more efficient well.  The location of the new well was just about 100 feet away from an old Native American village where no one lived anymore.  Beginning of the twentieth century the new well became important to serve thousands of travelers and the new first permanent residents in that area.  The very first people living there in the late 1800s established a post office and Indian Wells was becoming a residential area from the late 1910’s on.

At the similar time, the Date industry was growing as well and around the 1920’s, Indian Wells was growing and became a successful community.  There was another increase in growth when Eldorado Country Club and Indian Wells Club and its Golf Course was built and people moved into these communities.

By 1957 the first home owners association was founded and a petition was filed with the state by the Citizens to incorporate Indian Wells.  In June of 1967, around 285 voters were registered for their very first city election and it passed by major majority to incorporate Indian Wells to become the 400th city within California.  This was also the time when the area attracted a lot of celebrities and other famous people such as Desi Arnaz who was a Hollywood entertainer and owned the Indian Wells Hotel.  He participated in developing the Indian Wells Country Club and Golf Course and President D. Eisenhower liked the area so much that he chose Indian Wells as his winter destination to be.  Much later, the top golf and tennis tournaments attracted many more big names in the USA.Eldorado Country Club House, Indian Wells

Ralph Haverkate

George and Robert Alexander – Builders of Modernism in Palm Springs

Palmer & Krisel Twin Palms tractr home. Photo by Julius Shulman. Getty Museum
Palmer & Krisel Twin Palms tract home. Photo by Julius Shulman. Getty Museum archives.
Alexander Builders in Palm Springs
Alexander Builders in Palm Springs

Palm Springs’ great houses for Kaufman, Frey, Sinatra, Elrod, and others are all handsome expressions of the Modern Era. But as custom designs limited to one site and one incarnation, they lack one significant characteristic of Modernism; repeat-ability.

Embedded in Modernism is the ideal of mass production. The repeatable object, each equal in quality, form and use, is the essence of the twentieth century in contrast with handcrafted artifacts of previous centuries. The impact of the democratization of goods, services, and architecture – from cars to movies to billboards to McDonalds – was tremendous. It is the point where the machine and mass production bring Modernism to the mass audience; it happened in Palm Springs when father and son George and Robert Alexander brought architects Dan Palmer and William Krisel from Los Angeles to the Coachella Valley to design the first extensive tract subdivision in Palm Springs. Strikingly Modern with exposed concrete block, butterfly roofs and open plans. Palmer and Krisel’s designs proved pure Modernism would sell in the marketplace. Continue reading “George and Robert Alexander – Builders of Modernism in Palm Springs”